Author Archives: George Simmers

After many years as a teacher, I retired and began researching for a Ph.D. on the fiction of the Great War – especially the books, stories and plays that were written during the War or immediately afterwards.

The crook who published ‘Helen Zenna Smith’

In 1917 Netley Lucas was fourteen, but must have looked mature for his age. He got himself an officer’s uniform and used it to run up debts as, for a short but wild period he lived the high life. Inevitably, his luck eventually ran out, and he was sent to Borstal. After some more criminal […]

Modern Troubadours

Thanks to Ann-Marie Einhaus for pointing me towards Lena Ashwell’s 1922 book  Modern Troubadours, an account of the musical and theatrical troupes organised by Miss Ashwell, which took entertainment to soldiers in France and elsewhere. (A digital versioncan be found at the Internet Archive.) Ive just had a skim through so far, and I’m particularly […]

Michèle Audin’s ‘One Hundred Twenty One Days’

This novel (first published in French in 2014) centres on two mathematicians, both damaged in the first world war, and both nursed by the same young woman. Mortsauf has most of his face blown away, so is one of the gueules cassées;  he marries his nurse, becomes a successful academic and achieves a  position of […]

‘A splitarse bus’

V.M. Yeates spots a German aeroplane: It was one of the new DFWs – a nice-looking, very splitarse bus. ‘Splitarsing’ is a frequent word in Winged Victory  It appears in Arnall’s  Portrait of an Airman, too. The context makes it clear that it means ‘making a fast manoeuvre’, and the Oxford English Dictionary gives us […]

Thanatognomonic

I  like discovering words that are new to me. This is from V.M.Yeates, Winged Victory (1934): A flaming meteor fell out of a cloud close by them and plunged earthwards. It was an aeroplane going down in flames from some fight above the clouds. Where it fell the atmosphere was stained by a thanatognomonic black […]

‘Sapper’ paper online

A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be invited to the conference of Les Amis du Roman Populaire in Amiens. The topic was popular fiction of the First World War, and I gave a paper on ‘Sapper’: from Realism to Melodrama. This tried to explain how ‘Sapper’ ( Herman Cyril McNeile), who began as […]

The Yorkshire Silent Film Festival

Mary McLaren in Shoes I’ve been away on holiday, so haven’t seen as much of the Yorkshire Silent Film Festival as I’d have liked to. It’s playing throughout July at cinemas from Scarborough to Sheffield, and the films are worth catching. Yesterday I finally got to a session at the beautiful Hyde park cinema in […]

Portrait of an Airman by Philip Arnall

If I were in the business of reprinting neglected novels, the one I’d start with is Portrait of an Airman, by Philip Arnall (pseudonym of Oliver Stewart). Many thanks to Steve Paradis for pointing me towards this book. The novel traces a wartime career very like the author’s own, and it’s safe to assume that […]

Geoffrey Hill (1932 – 2016)

Geoffrey Hill has died, a remarkable poet and a profound critic. I heard him lecture  on war poetry at Oxford a few years ago, and wrote about it here.

The Somme on TV

I’m sure that the Somme vigils last night were very moving experiences, and it is absolutely right and proper to remember and honour the dead. I was very disappointed, though, with what I saw of the television coverage last night. What follows may not be a complete account of the programme, since I am allergic […]

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